Originally published in Castine Patriot, September 2, 2021
Hutchins honored at Wilson Museum picnic
50 years of service recognized
by David Avery
On Sunday, August 29, more than 200 friends of the Wilson Museum gathered on the lawn at the Perkins Street campus to fete retiring Executive Director Patricia “Patty” L. Hutchins. She has been a presence at the museum for nearly 50 years. It was evident from the outpouring of praise that she and the museum have made quite an impact on the community in that time.
Plenty of food and drink was available while a program of speakers took to the podium. Afterwards, there were several special demonstrations of living history, one of Hutchins’ favorite aspects of the museum.
She spoke first, graciously thanking the museum board, a host of local organizations and businesses, most of which were represented, and her own family, including a great-grandchild, many of whom were present for the festivities. “It has been a great privilege to serve this community,” she said.
She also told stories of trying to lure people to the museum with food. “Sometimes I’d stand in front of their cars with a plate of cookies,” she joked.
Food has been an abiding presence at the museum during Hutchins’ tenure. The picnic was her idea, according to the president of the Board of Trustees, Temple Blackwood. It featured beans baked in a bean hole and bread baked in the wood-fired bake oven, one of Hutchins’ personal specialties.
There was even a raffle of wooden bowls, turned by expert woodworker Blackwood for the event. According to Haley Blake, the education coordinator at the museum, the bowls were specially designed to fit the loaves of bread that Hutchins makes in the bake oven.
Hutchins was also presented with a life-size image of herself in period garb beside a cook fire. The photo was by photographer Rosemary Wyman.
Blackwood was joined at the podium by longtime member of the Castine selectboard, Peter Vogell, and Castine Town Manager Shawn Blodgett. Together they presented Hutchins with a plaque to mark her 50 years of service to the community and the museum.
Hutchins’ husband of 57 years, Sherm, who is also a member of the state legislature, read from an official document of the 130th Legislature recognizing his wife’s life’s work.
Such proclamations are made to recognize significant achievements, he explained. For example, the valedictorian of the University of Maine got one recently, too.
“At my house, my wife is valedictorian. That’s not so bad because that makes me salutatorian—unless someone is visiting,” said Sherm.
Hans Carlson of the museum board announced that the board has created a special position for Hutchins, Executive Director Emeritus, that will keep her around the museum even after she hands over the reins.
The official date for new Executive Director Julia Gray to take over is September 11, the date of the board’s annual meeting.
Kay Hightower of the museum board announced the creation of the Patricia Hutchins Endowed Intern Fund. She thanked the donors who helped to raise $100,000, which “we will continue to grow,” she said.
Hutchins has been involved at the museum since the 1970s, getting her start by making costumes to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the museum.
Then directed by Ellenore Doudiet, the founder’s daughter, the Wilson Museum, under Hutchins’ leadership, has transitioned into a public nonprofit organization with a substantial endowment run by a Board of Trustees.
The institution has grown from a single building housing the geological, archeological and anthropological collections of Dr. John Howard Wilson to the multi-building campus it is today. It even features a modern meeting room with, appropriately, a kitchen, in the Hutchins Education Center, named to honor four generations of Hutchins family service to the museum.
Patty and her husband Sherm have both been running the museum’s operations for a long time, taking over from Sherm’s parents before them.
Among the local organizations recognized, present or contributing to the event were the Castine Historical Society, the Castine Arts Association, Camden National Bank, Bangor Savings Bank, local business owners David Hatch, Gary Broulliard, Robert Gray and Jerry Farnham. Also noted were the Compass Rose Bookstore, Markels restaurant and the Penobscot Bay Press.
Coincidentally, 2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the museum’s founding.